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New York Race Discrimination Lawyer Update: Federal Court Orders FDNY to pay $128M in damages

Thumbnail image for above-the-bar-logo.jpgFederal District Court Judge Nicholas Garufis has ordered the City of New York (“City”) to pay over $128 million as damages to minority African American and Hispanic applicants who were discriminated by the Fire Department of New York (“FDNY”). Depending on how much the minority applicants mitigated their loss of income by finding other employment, the City may be able to reduce some of the damages.

The complaint in this case was filed in May 2007 and alleged that the City’s pass/fail and rank order use of two written exams, which were given in 1999 and 2002 created a disparate impact on African American and Hispanic applicants. If you have been discriminated against with respect to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, promotions, training, or compensation, our attorneys can help you protect your workplace rights.

The government’s lawsuit, which was joined by the Vulcan Society Inc., charged the City with violating the U.S. Constitution and local civil rights laws by using an entrance exam that was designed to discriminate based on race. The government alleged that the exam concentrated on cognitive and reading skills rather than firefighting. Given the fire department’s background, white candidates consistently passed as they were recruited and supported through the application process by their family and neighborhood contacts while minority candidates failed.

The lawsuit alleged that “For decades, black and other minority firefighters have been severely underrepresented in the Department’s ranks.” Out of the City’s 11,200 uniformed firefighters, only 9% are African American or Hispanic.

Judge Garaufis had ruled against the City and found that the FDNY discriminated against minorities with its entrance exams. In making his ruling on the damages, the judge did not mention job requirements or applicant’s qualifications. The ruling contains the assumption that, on average, the white applicants’ aptitude was equal to the African American and Hispanic applicants and that the exam was the only factor that created a statistical difference between the equally qualified groups.

Over 2,000 minorities who scored above 25 on the exam will be eligible to get a part of the damages. The decision talks about how back pay should be calculated, identifies various sub-groups among minority candidates, and the procedure to be used by special masters in evaluating and awarding damages.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal to for an employer to discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin with respect to any aspect of employment. This includes hiring, firing, promotion, training, pay, testing, as well as any other terms or conditions of employment. Title VII not only makes it illegal to intentionally discriminate but it also prohibits the use of employment practices that create a disparate impact. In other words, an employer cannot use an employment practice that disproportionately keeps out applicants based on race and national origin, unless the employer can prove that the practice is job related and consistent with business necessity.

If you or someone you care about has suffered from discrimination based on race or color, whether it was intentional or from a disparate impact, call our Discrimination Attorneys at Villanueva & Sanchala at (800) 893-9645 to discuss how we can help you protect your rights.

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